Books and Movies Reviews

Nanook of the North

In 1922, Robert Flaherty debuted his epic ethnographic film entitled Nanook of the North. At the time, nobody knew of the impact that it would have on the entire industry of filmmaking. One of the innovators of the ethnographic film, Flaherty took his camera into places that no one had ever imagined. His expedition into the Arctic brought forth a new style of filmmaking that is still used in many films today.
Thefirst thing that everybody must notice about Nanook of the North is the cinematography. At this point in the era of film the equipment was obviously quite primitive when compared to everything that we have today. This, however, did not hinder Flaherty in any way as his film still contains many of the most breath-taking images still available for viewing. For example, the opening sequence to the film contains an incredible deep-focus shot of the icebergs floating around in the sea, as the sun is high above the water. Everything in the shot seems to be in place and a type of peace is established before you are introduced to the film's main character, Nanook. Later in the film the camera revisits similar shots using the barren landscape behind the action to further reveal the desolation of the Eskimo people. All you can see is snow and ice for miles and miles as the subjects engage in their activity. Civilization has not touched these
people, and therefore the landscape is peaceful behind the action, even though the Eskimo people are constantly struggling with their natural environment.
Flaherty was also able to pull off many other things than beautiful imagery with his camera work, though. As a matter of fact, the key to the success of Nanook of the North was his innovative camera techniques. In David Parkinson's History of Film, Parkinson states “shot with a'participatory camera', the scenic footage and dramatic reconstructions of Nanook of the North captured the spirit of the Eskimo lifestyle thro…

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